Ask Dr Aaron
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My primary-school-aged son and daughter are poles apart in their attitudes to school and their ability to learn. I’m wondering if there’s a scientific or psychological difference between boy and girl students, how they learn and how they perform? Or is it just a personality thing between my two?
Yes – boys tend to learn in more hands-on ways and are often more distractible and less studious. They are also typically later to mature and develop the ability to focus. Having said all that, you are right to ask if personality plays a big part because, despite what I’ve just said, there are heaps of very focused and motivated boys and just as many distractable and active girls, however they aren’t the norm.
My 7-year-old son doesn’t really like school much. He doesn’t have any problems with the other children (bullying etc) that I’m aware of. He just doesn’t like going to school. How can I help him change his attitude?
If you look at the academic outcomes for boys these days, they are doing worse than girls across the board. The school system, as it is set up currently, isn’t working brilliantly for a lot of boys and unsurprisingly a lot of them don’t enjoy it. We are unlikely to re-shape schools any time soon, so perhaps the best you can do is to help him rekindle his love of learning. We are all born curious and we are designed to explore and to learn. Somewhere in amongst times tables, rote history lessons and spelling tests that love of learning becomes a chore. Outside of school you can help him to at least remember how much he loves learning new things. Teach him how to build a fort in the backyard, how to navigate while bushwalking or how to make his own webpage. With a bit of luck, you can also help him find the fun parts of what he is learning at school.
How much is too much extracurricular? My daughter is 10 and wants to try her hand at (it seems) everything but I want her to put her mind to her schoolwork. What’s your opinion on extracurricular activities for primary school students?
I see so many over-tired, emotional and over-scheduled children each week. I get the impression that someone sent out a memo saying “Your children must be busy during all waking hours or you are failing as a parent”. Personally, I think a good rule of thumb is one activity per week, at least in early primary. But every child is different. Some will thrive on being so busy and learning so much while others will find even a weekly piano lesson unpleasant. So look carefully at how your child is reacting. I also think it is important to be a bit strategic with your extracurricular choices. Why are you signing your kid up for something? If they have a real talent and you want to help them explore it, that is great. Or if they have a real area of weakness and you want to give them a chance to work on it, that is also good.